A billion-dollar, state-of-the-art Major League Baseball stadium couldn’t match the priceless experience the MLB at Field of Dreams offered last month.
BaseballParks.com on Sept. 9 named the temporary stadium in Dyersville as the recipient of its 21st annual Ballpark of the Year award, despite having the smallest budget and hosting the fewest games and fewest fans of the nine professional baseball facilities eligible for the honor. Also in the running was Globe Life Field, the $1.1 billion new home of the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas.
Since 2000, BaseballParks.com’s advisory panel has honored the new or remodeled baseball stadium that best delivers what fans seek in a ballpark. The panel included Joe Mock, founder of the website; Doug Greenwald, a baseball broadcaster for the past 26 years; and Graham Knight, the author of three books on ballparks who operates the popular Baseball Pilgrimages website.
Past award winners include the San Francisco Giants’ Pac Bell Park in 2000, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ PNC Park in 2001, the San Diego Padres’ Petco Park in 2004 and Fort Bragg Ballpark, the one-time site of an MLB game between the Atlanta Braves and Florida Marlins in 2016 on an active military base in North Carolina.
“MLB at Field of Dreams was a special night for everyone who experienced the event in person, the millions of fans who watched at home, and for the entire sport,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said when informed of the award. “Our ballpark in Dyersville demonstrated an attention to detail that reflected the look and feel of the movie, making it a spectacular setting for a game. I want to thank the White Sox, the Yankees, Murray Cook of BrightView, BaAM Productions, Populous, FOX Sports, and our staff at Major League Baseball for creating an event that we will never forget.”
The Field of Dreams stadium, located adjacent to the historic movie site, featured a construction budget of only $6 million and drew nearly 8,000 for a one-time game between the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees on Aug. 12. Tim Anderson’s two-run walk-off home run in the ninth inning gave the White Sox a 9-8 victory that drew the largest television audience for a regular-season game since 2005. More than 5.9 million fans watched the game on Fox and Fox Deportes.
To pull off the event, MLB partnered with three firms — Populous for the design; BaAM Productions for the project and construction management; and BrightView for the playing surface and team areas. The same collaboration created the Fort Bragg Ballpark.
“Populous was privileged to design the Field of Dreams Ballpark and bring the magic and poetry of the iconic film to life,” the firm’s senior event architect, Todd Barnes, said in a statement announcing the award.
“Between five years of planning, two attempts to build the ballpark during the pandemic and the unmatched innovation, creativity and thought required from the entire ‘Dream Team,’ we are grateful to MLB for the opportunity, and honored to earn Ballpark of the Year for the 11th time in our firm’s history.”
The project took on added meaning for Murray Cook, the president of the Sports Turf Division of BrightView.
“It’s been an honor working with MLB as their field and ballpark consultant for the past 30 years, but there was definitely something extra-special about this project in the Iowa cornfield,” Cook said. “I’ve heard from hundreds of people about the field and they all tend to share an emotional attachment to the movie or even their own Field of Dreams story. Even if it was just for a few hours, I think what we — and that’s a big ‘we’ — did to design and build that field gave a lot of folks a sense of hope and a renewed love for the game. And to win this coveted ballpark award is icing on the cake.”
MLB will return to the Field of Dreams stadium next summer. The Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds will meet on Aug. 11, 2022.